Greenfield author uses writing as a weapon for change

  • Amy Laprade of Greenfield recently published her first novel, “So Nice to Finally Meet You …,” which she started working on nearly a quarter-century ago. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Amy Laprade of Greenfield recently published her first novel, “So Nice to Finally Meet You …,” which she started working on nearly a quarter-century ago. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 12/22/2017 12:27:44 PM

In a highly-digitized age, when everything is becoming quick and compressed, Greenfield resident Amy Laprade wants to help middle-schoolers fall in love with the sometimes long and laborious art of writing.

The 46-year-old Greenfield woman recently published her first novel, “So Nice to Finally Meet You …,” which she started working on nearly a quarter-century ago.

“It’s been through probably 19 or 20 full-on drafts,” Laprade said. “When you really think about how much needs to be said in a novel, I don’t think any of those previous drafts were a waste, because I think that sometimes you need to learn who the characters are; it’s like you’re trying to find out what this story is really about.”

Laprade teaches creative writing one-on-one, and offers manuscript consultation for individuals, specializing in fiction and creative nonfiction. Her favorite people to work with are middle-schoolers, she said.

“They encompass the strong will and the independence of the older teens, but there’s part of them that also has a young child’s need for guidance, and I think that makes the coaching much more dynamic and fascinating for me,” Laprade said. “I just want to encourage middle-schoolers to fall in love with the process of writing, and that writing has so very little to do with how well did you spell, how well did you punctuate and how well did you write a critical essay.”

Laprade, who also works as a cook at Franklin Community Coop, says she’s always loved telling stories, but what drew her to writing was S.E. Hinton’s 1967 and 1975 coming-of-age novels, “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish.”

“I love how Susie Hinton deals with hard-line issues and (“Rumble Fish”) is what inspired me to write “So Nice to Finally Meet You ...” because I like those really painful, difficult issues,” she said. “People keep forgetting, sometimes kids are confronted with heavy stuff and they don’t have the coping mechanisms that a much older adult has, so the stakes are higher.”

Laprade was just 21 when she began working on own her novel, taking a break from it for a period of time as she moved from coast to coast, and then working on it intermittently. The story, for young adults, centers around 15-year-old Gina Laramee, who is estranged from her parents and longs to understand her family roots and to have a normal, loving relationship with her mentally unstable Aunt Elaine.

She said the story “just kind of came out of left field.” Some of its themes, including abuse, addiction and sexual assault, she feels aren’t talked about openly enough.

“The situation is purely fictitious, it’s not my story per se, but I know it’s other people’s story,” she said.

Laprade has a second novel under her belt, though it’s not yet published. In that novel, “Behind the Magic 8 Ball,” she tells the story of three teenagers who set out to halt construction of a chain restaurant, but have trouble getting past their own fears and laziness. She began writing the novel because she was frightened and upset by how much of the American west is being swallowed up by big box chains and corporations. Laprade said her disgust for urban sprawl, combined with a lackadaisical, unengaged, uninterested young population was what inspired her to draft the story.

“There’s sort of the deadness of American culture and these three lost souls who don’t have much direction, but are trying to find meaning in life,” she said. “It’s a culture that drives me nuts about America, so rather than feel depressed that we’re so bought out by corporations and our lives are digitized and desensitized and yet hypersensitized at the same time, I wanted to write a black comedy about contemporary America.”

Laprade said she typically draws inspiration for her writing from what bothers her.

“I can’t put a finger on it, things that people do that irritate me or the way society treats people and issues; it’s usually areas where bad things happen and I don’t feel like I have any control, so rather than feel hopeless or victimized by it … I’m like how can I find the funny and the not funny?” she said. “It’s just sort of a weapon, writing and words and books have always been a defense mechanism and a weapon.”

In addition to her first novel, which was published by Human Error Press, Laprade’s work has appeared in Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Canyon Voices and The Montague Reporter. She also won the 2017 Michael Doherty Creative Writing Contest in Poetry.


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